x Abu Dhabi, UAETuesday 25 July 2017

Manila charity chief seeks support

Jane Walker's trip from the UK to visit a friend in Manila turned into 14 years of devoted charity work.

Jane Walker, the CEO of the Philippine Community Fund (PCF).
Jane Walker, the CEO of the Philippine Community Fund (PCF).

ABU DHABI // Jane Walker's trip from the UK to visit a friend in Manila turned into 14 years of devoted charity work to stop young children from being forced to scavenge through dump sites.

Ms Walker, the chief executive of the Philippine Community Fund (PCF), begins a four-day trip to Abu Dhabi today to drum up support for programmes to put a stop to child labour through education.

"What I'd like to do when I come over is to really look for strategic partnerships," she said from Manila last week. "I'm looking for schools, corporations and individuals who want to make an effect on some of the poorest Filipinos."

The 45-year-old publishing executive was moved to action after spotting youngsters on Manila's Smokey Mountain dump site back in 1996, founding her charity two years later and moving to the Philippines with her son in 2006. She now divides her time between the two countries.

Her fund offers education, health care, food and skills training to families living by the Smokey Mountain dump site and in other Manila slums. For years, young children and their parents have eked out a living by scavenging through the city's rubbish.

By May next year, Ms Walker said a PCF school made out of stacked and recycled 40-foot shipping containers would be inaugurated for these families in Manila. About 1,200 students have already been incorporated into the fund's education programme. Among them, Ms Walker has witnessed a drop in the number who appear malnourished, as well as a steady improvement in their school grades.

"They are so hungry to learn," she said. "They are so desperate to change their own future. Their passion for education and wanting to change their lives inspires all of us."

The PCF also runs a college programme that trains 36 students to be teachers, nurses, engineers and social workers. Many plan to work with the fund, but there are few job opportunities in these fields of work in the Philippines, she said.

The charity is trying to support the parents of these children through a livelihood programme that provides an alternative to waste picking, she said. It sees a variety of products made from recycled material, including glossy magazines turned into jewellery, while ring pulls from soda cans, crisps packets and toothpaste tubes are made into bags and purses.

Ms Walker said the PCF would launch a strong fund-raising drive after her UAE visit.

For more information about the PCF, visit p-c-f.org.